Six Fears When Beginning a Novel

After a long silence punctuated by endless character sketches, aimless dialogue snippets, and homeless place descriptions…

(Drum roll, please. And the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth wouldn’t hurt, either.)

I’m doing it. I’m writing a new novel. It’s an idea that’s been germinating in my head for a long time, something I started a few years ago, scrapped, and recently decided to rework entirely. So, in celebration of that fact, here’s a list of my top six fears as I begin—because we all know that naming our fears makes them completely and utterly disappear, right?

1. I could die before I finish it. What if it could have been great, or maybe even just good, and I was in the middle of some major revision and about to write the best scene of my life and then—poof—consumption takes me up to the pearly gates?

2. I’ll be staring at a blank page for the rest of my life. This is an ultra form of writer’s block, where I won’t be able to write ever again and will only look, glazed and stupefied, at a page with all potentiality and no actuality.

3. If I am able to finish it, I won’t have done what I set out to do. It’s Dante’s realm of the Uncommitted for writers—having attempted to make an impression, and finding in the end that nothing has been achieved, and that our hands have not been communicating properly with our hearts.

4. It will be terrible. Let’s face it—who knows how many hours, how many wide-eyed nights, how many cups of tea, how many hairs pulled out later, and it might just be kind of bad. Eh. So-so. Average.

5. No one will want to read it. Aside from, you know, kind friends and relatives. (Thanks, guys!)

6. No one will want to publish it. It’s pretty common knowledge that the majority of the breakout bestselling novels nowadays have to go through the wringer even to get a literary agent. We’re talking upwards of forty or fifty rejection notes, all mercilessly identical. This is both encouraging and discouraging. Unless what I write isn’t even good enough after that… (See Fear #4. Also—writing to get published is a complete joke. But it’s still a fear.)

Well. Now that I’ve made myself completely paranoid and a hopeless, nail-gnawing wreck, I’m going to get back to work on that novel! I was just kidding, anyway. Of course I was kidding.

Kind of?

Whatever. I love writing. Sure, it would be nice to reach people I don’t even know and see my work mean something to thousands of others and grip them as much as it has gripped me, but that can’t be why I write. If that was the truth, I wouldn’t write at all. I’d give up right now.

I write because I love to tell stories. I have to tell stories. It’s part of who I am. They will come out even if I want to keep them in.

So it’s okay if only ten people read this novel. Ten people is something.

…But just in case, if anybody finds me hiding underneath a chair, muttering never-ending back and forths between characters in a British accent and intermittently weeping about the lack of chocolate anywhere in my vicinity, please calm me down and offer a few cheering words. And possibly a Dark Chocolate bar. With raspberry in the middle.

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